Vietnamese Police Release 15 Christians


2003-12-12
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Police in Vietnam's southern Ho Chi Minh City have released 15 of the 19 Christians arrested earlier this week for carrying or distributing Christian leaflets during the Southeast Asian Games, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.

Fifteen assistant ministers were freed on Thursday, two days after they were taken into custody, according to sources who asked not to be named. But two ministers and two assistant ministers remain unaccounted for.

In Ho Chi Minh City's first district, Pham Ngoc Thach, a Protestant minister, and Nguyen Hong Quang, another minister, along with 30 assistant ministers, had staged a hunger strike and sit-in at the first district's Nguyen Thai Binh ward police station after the arrests.

In the seventh district, 11 assistant ministers were arrested Tuesday as well as three assistant ministers. In the Tan Phu district, also in Ho Chi Minh City, police arrested four assistant ministers, according to the source, who asked not to be named.

All but four of the detainees were known to have been held at local police facilities, the source said, although the whereabouts of ministers Tran Mai and Le Quang Son and two assistants still remain unknown.

"We love this country, and we respect the law, but we are being persecuted for our beliefs," Nguyen Hong Quang said by telephone from his protest at the Nguyen Thai Binh ward police station.

No comment was available from Ho Chi Minh City police.

All of the assistant ministers were arrested Tuesday, either for carrying boxes of leaflets containing game schedules and quotations exhorting readers to Christianity or for handing them out before the Vietnam-Malaysia match, sources said.#####

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